Yu Min­hong: The god­fa­ther of over­seas study

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA -

Al­most ev­ery stu­dent in China who wants to study over­seas knows Yu Min­hong’s name. Nick­named the “god­fa­ther of over­seas study”, Yu’s pop­u­lar­ity is largely due to the suc­cess of the New Ori­en­tal Ed­u­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy Group, orig­i­nally Bei­jing New Ori­en­tal School.

The com­pany started by of­fer­ing in­ten­sive train­ing for stu­dents plan­ning to go abroad via the Test of English as a For­eign Lan­guage and the Grad­u­ate Record Ex­am­i­na­tions. The 56-year-old Yu serves as its founder and chair­man.

De­spite his enor­mous suc­cess, Yu looks or­di­nary, dress­ing ca­su­ally in T-shirts and jeans, and wear­ing sneak­ers.

The son of a farmer in Jiangsu prov­ince, East China, Yu failed the

gaokao, the na­tional col­lege en­trance exam twice be­cause of low scores in English. How­ever, he was fi­nally ac­cepted by the Western Lan­guages Depart­ment of the pres­ti­gious Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity in 1980.

But his ac­cep­tance by PKU was not the end of his aca­demic trou­bles. In his ju­nior year, he con­tracted pneu­mo­nia and had to take a 12-month break from his stud­ies.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from PKU in 1985, Yu be­came a teacher there. “I was proud be­cause the uni­ver­sity was so fa­mous,” he said.

Back in the 1980s, when the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy was in its in­fancy, there was a craze among top uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates to pur­sue fur­ther study over­seas.

Like many of his peers, Yu wanted to pur­sue the “Amer­i­can dream” af­ter grad­u­a­tion, but his ap­pli­ca­tion for a United States’ en­try visa was re­peat­edly re­buffed. The prob­lem was even­tu­ally re­solved, and af­ter three years, he was ac­cepted by a uni­ver­sity in the US. How­ever, he was un­able to get a schol­ar­ship, and the small salary he earned by teach­ing English at PKU was not enough to cover his tu­ition fees.

To earn enough money to study abroad, Yu be­gan teach­ing stu­dents how to pass the TOEFL exam in a class run out­side of PKU.

How­ever, PKU of­fi­cials re­garded the class as a dis­trac­tion from his job, so they dis­ci­plined Yu and an­nounced his pun­ish­ment over the cam­pus ra­dio sta­tion.

In 1991, af­ter work­ing there for six years, Yu quit PKU and started his ad­ven­ture out­side the ivory tower.

Af­ter leav­ing, Yu de­cided to open an English school.

In Novem­ber 1993, Yu pasted ad­ver­tise­ments in the streets of Bei­jing’s Haid­ian district to pro­mote his new ven­ture.

“I drove a small, sec­ond-hand van to trans­port ev­ery­thing a school would need. I had only two staff mem­bers. There were just a desk and a few chairs in the rented bun­ga­low that served as a class­room,” he said.

Yu’s per­sis­tence, hu­mor and unique teach­ing style won him great pop­u­lar­ity among stu­dents who wanted to study abroad, and within a year he had earned enough money to pay for his tu­ition in the US.

“But I was re­luc­tant to leave the school as it had more than 2,000 stu­dents. I found it a promis­ing ca­reer as the num­ber of stu­dents rose con­stantly,” he re­called.

To ex­pand, Yu trav­eled to the US and Canada to per­suade two old friends, Xu Xiaop­ing and Wang Qiang, to join the school.

In Septem­ber 2006, New Ori­en­tal Ed­u­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy Group listed on the New York Stock Ex­change.

By the end of Au­gust, the com­pany, which em­ploys 30,300 teach­ers at 88 schools in 76 cities, had trained around 38 mil­lion stu­dents.

“Some peo­ple think New Ori­en­tal lacks the recog­ni­tion of PKU or Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, which have over time earned the re­spect of the pub­lic and sup­port from the govern­ment. They think we act only as an as­sis­tant to the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,” Yu said.

“New Ori­en­tal has al­ways served as a bridge builder, send­ing out stu­dents and wel­com­ing them back. When you send tal­ented peo­ple abroad, they bring es­sen­tial knowl­edge back to make the coun­try bet­ter and stronger.”

Al­though Yu has trav­eled over­seas many times for busi­ness trips, he still re­grets not tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to study abroad.

“I think I will go to a top uni­ver­sity in the US as a vis­it­ing scholar when I re­tire, since go­ing abroad to study has al­ways been my dream.”


Yu Min­hong de­liv­ers a speech to fresh­men at Dalian Mar­itime Uni­ver­sity in Liaon­ing prov­ince last year.

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